Friday, October 31, 2008


"You pray for me, then I'll pray for you, you pray for me, then I'll pray for you." - My son Jakin, to his buddy, pretty much laying out the greatest plan for friendship and brotherhood that I've ever heard.
This last Tuesday night, a group of about 35 guys, representing at least 7 different men's groups, gathered in my basement to celebrate, remember, re-connect with, and be inspired by Christ. It was a great time. We sang, shared, ate, confessed, laughed and prayed together. The connections we made to each other, to God, and to what we are about still has me on cloud nine.
And what we are about is this: we meet together with a few other men in order to take the masks off and help each other become more like Christ. It is a fellowship of fearless friendships.
My youngest son Jakin (5) was hangin' around Tuesday afternoon while I was arranging the basement with some simple chairs, and when I set out a small table with some loaves of bread and drink. I didn't think he was paying much attention.
But the next day, my wife called me from the house. where she was hangin' with Jakin and one of his best buddies, Jake. She called to inform me that the two boys were downstairs in the basement. My son Jakin had come in with Jake and asked for chunks of the leftover bread from the night before and for "two cups of juice". Then Carrie asked what he wanted them for...
My little boy informed her that he and Jake were he headed down to the basement to pray.
While Carrie prepared their sacred meal, Jakin laid out the plan to Jake. "Okay, when we get down there, you pray for me, I'll pray for you, then you pray for me, and I'll pray for you."
And they did.
After Jake got picked up by his mom, Carrie asked Jakin what they prayed for. He told her, "Jake thanked God that I was his friend, I prayed for Jake, and the bread and for God's blessing. And for none of to get sick. Then we played."
That's pretty much what I do in the basement with my buddies on Tuesday nights, too.
Thattaboy, Jakin. Thattaboy, Jake.
One of my buddies from Tuesday nights, Shane, brought his teenage son with him for the first time this past Tuesday. He told me that while he and his son Eastland were leaving, his youngest son Baylor (also 5) asked if he could come. Shane let him down gently, but Baylor, of course, persisted. So Shane told him, "you can do your own group, Baylor." Baylor, who calls it "man-group", hasn't stopped talking about it ever since. He started listing his 5-year-old band of brothers that he would invite right away (and I was so happy to hear that Jakin was on his list).
Thattaboy, Baylor.
I told Jakin that he needed to call up Baylor and invite him into his man-group with he and Jake, and Jakin said, "Okay. Actuwawey, tell Baylor he can come over and meet with us every day."
Thattaboy, Jakin.
Eastland, Shane's oldest son, as they were going home started talking about what they just experienced, and Eastland said that a group of Christian brothers that he had just started meeting with the week before could possibly be his version of what his dad had.
Thattaboy, Eastland.
Wow. What I wouldn't have done to have been a part of the kind of real fellowship, brotherhood, and the mutual fighting for each other's hearts that I am a part of now way back when I was their age. Of course, I didn't know what I didn't know back then.
But I know now. I know now that "church" is made up of people in real relationship with each other prompted by their mutual pursuit of actually shaping their lives to look more like Christ's.
I know now that "church fellowship" is the kind of deep, penetrating friendships that goes down below the surface of things to the "things behind the things"...down to the very heart...where the realm of the Kingdom of God resides.
I know now that "church service" is what I offer to people when I offer them my life for the purpose of helping them become more like Christ in theirs.
And, please God, let me and my brothers be teaching our kids how to live these things early.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Making it happen" vs. "Letting it happen"

"As soon as you trust yourself - deeply and truly, based on humility, not pride - you will know how to live."Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
"Am I going to die?" - My son, Shade, in the midst of a new, painful, and uncomfortable experience driving to the E.R. after falling and hitting his head
"There are many, many days when my work is simply to accept, bear, and endure all things, while continuing to believe (in Him) and hope (for another), no matter what - days when nothing seems to have a place, point, or purpose, when all around me seem desperately lost and screaming, either giving up or lashing out." - Jim Spivey
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." - 1 Corinthians 13:7
One of the epic struggles of my life has been between the "make it happen" vs.. the "let it happen" approaches to things.
Having been a card-carrying member of the former, and having been totally taken out by it, I had to (painfully) let it go. It was stealing life from me.
And now being totally sold out to the the latter, and learning every day a little bit more of what that means, I'm so grateful to God...
* For Christ's example of it.
* For how much simpler it is.
* For how much more effective it is.
* For how it gives me something to die for that matters.
* That in my dying, I find the life I was always trying to "make happen".
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means to been apathetic, when it actually means humbly caring with your whole person without the need to control.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means to be a lazy do-nothing, when it actually means "being with" the pain of the world as it happens every day without need to escape it.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means running from responsibility, when it actually means to take full responsibility for "staying in the pain of yourself and others" with nothing to lean on or offer but hope.
Some think that a "letting it happen" lifestyle means being an inappropriately passive human being that ends up as a doormat of sorts, useless in fighting for or defending (personal or global) justice, when it actually means to lay down the sword of "forcing" things "because it's right" and picking up the much weightier, more powerful sword of "winning" people "because of love".
We all lack imagination enough to distinguish between the two, and it has been my constant call to sit in this space with people while we figure it out together. And I'm totally clear that it is much more "for me, from God" than it is "for others, from me". 
How many times and how many people, after "hitting their heads", totally disoriented by the new and uncomfortable experience they are encountering, ask some form of the question that my son asked on the way to the hospital, "Am I going to die?"
"No, buddy. Your not going to die," I told him in the car, selfishly grateful that it was true.
His job in that car was to just "let it happen" - the pain, the disorientation, the dependence on others, and ultimately, the care, the healing, the restoration, and total awareness of the lessons that come from the experience. 
It takes a profound humility to "let things happen" bear with, endure, hope and believe all things...and to not let fear for our lives keep us from it. It's costs us everything, and the price is so worth it.
It's not what he needed to hear at the time, but I can hear the echo of a line from my favorite movie of all time, Braveheart, as I write this email, when William Wallace says, "All men die. Not all men truly live."
And Jesus, right behind that, saying, "Whoever loses his life will find it."
I love you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Giving Away the Best Possible Life

“What would you like me to do for you, son?” – The question God asked me this weekend.

“Make me a powerful multiplier of groups who live Christ’s life together.” – What I want God to do for me.

I have a life that I want others to have.

I don’t mean that I think I have “arrived” at some pinnacle of perfection.

I don’t mean that I want others to do what I am externally doing with my life.

I don’t mean that my life is easy. Or without temptation. Or absent of difficulty.

But I have a life that I want others to have.

It is deep in my heart, and I long for others to experience it. It can (inadequately) be described as a peacefully intense love for God and an intensely peaceful love for people. It is so much more than that, but words escape me.

It’s an ironic life, too. Because it allows for my imperfections, for me to be an unfinished man, without my using them as an excuse to do nothing, or feel hopeless, unworthy or unqualified. Since it is primarily inward, it provides an experience of joy no matter what I choose to do externally with my life. And best of all, it provides a peace (that passes understanding, maybe?) no matter what temptations or difficulties come my way.

It is a life of love.

And I love this life.

And I want it for every other human being on the planet.

And I labor to give it away daily. It costs me everything, and it pays me back in everything that matters.

It gives me a deeply personal relationship with God that, even when I exert all the energy of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, its riches are not depleted. What’s more, it gives me deeply personal relationships with people around me who I would die for and who would die for me (Jesus says there is no love greater than this…no wonder it is so satisfying). Better yet, I have people that I would live for and who would live for me (which is really what Paul means by “dying daily”).

I can safely say that know people, and I am fully known.

The freedom and security in such depth of relationship, both with God and with people, is staggering.

And I want it for everyone.

I live for God and with God. And I live for people and with people.

I am daily being impacted for good and daily making an impact for good.

It is quite simply, in my humble opinion, the best possible life.

It is the life of Christ.

And I shamelessly want to be a powerful multiplier of fellowships who live it, are learning to live it better, and giving it away to others.

For a long time I’ve asked God “how?” How do I best pass this way of life on to the multitudes that need it?

But when Jesus asked me this what I wanted from him, I didn’t ask how. I just asked him to do it.

So I’m listening and working for this, and full of faith that it will happen...and excited to see what happens.

When I came home Sunday night, my kids were sleeping soundly, and my wife was in the living room with her intimate sisterhood…girls who are becoming more like Christ together. She greeted me sweetly and with a very knowing look told me a brief story about how my oldest son (8 years old) decided to pick up a piece of paper and write down a bunch of his favorite things. She handed this too me…

Of course, my face beamed at the whole thing, but my heart gently leapt inside my chest when I read the bottom about his hero. It was a mixture of deep satisfaction and hope, but also of sobering responsibility and fear.

My wife then said, “After he wrote that and was going to bed, he said, ‘I want to write one more thing, then I’ll go to bed, I promise.’ You have to go check it out…he left it on the desk next to his bed.”

Excited, I made my way to his dimly lit bedroom where he was peacefully sleeping, and I grabbed the little slip of paper he left under his pencil on his little desk. I choked up as I read…

“The life,” he said. Not life…but “the life”.

Now I know he’s 8. There will be a season, if not longer, where he won’t feel this way. Not looking forward to it, but eager to persevere through it and learn from it. But for now, in the quiet of my son-turning-young-man, I fall on my knees in gratitude and hope that Carrie and I live “the life” in a way that this note captures my kids’ hearts now and when they are old…come what may.

I prayed… “Please, Father, let this be so…in my wife and kids first, and then through our family to the world…show me how to stay in, teach, and multiply “the life.”